Sunday, December 21, 2008

Viva Oaxaca!

Paper flags near the zocalo

We returned from Oaxaca Thursday evening, and it is now Sunday afternoon. I am just now beginning to unpack and wash clothes and to write this entry. I've noticed my reluctance to do both these things. The chore of unpacking I can understand, but I have been surprised how I put off this blog report of the trip. I finally realized it is because both activities mean that the trip is really over.
I've enjoyed lounging around in our cozy house, watching the snow, while wrapped in a Mexican shawl and a pleasant, jet-lagged, dreamy mist. It feels like I could walk into the next room and be back in the sun filled gardens of the Casa Colonial. It's a treat to have the time to ponder insights I've gained, new friends I've met, and let the experience settle.

Now I am looking forward to sharing some of the trip with you!

As mentioned in my previous post, we endured delays in getting to Oaxaca. Here's a journal entry showing how I felt the night we slept at the Houston Airport.

No stars hotel

Finally, two days late, we arrived. We pulled up to this door, set into an old building on a side street of Oaxaca city. I had a moment of panic, having thought we would be more in the country.

The famous purple door

Once inside the door, this is what we saw!

Entryway and patio

We joined the Casa Colonial owner, Jane, and the rest of the writing group for margaritas and getting acquainted. From then on, the trip was fantastic.

While Dot and the others were in their morning writing class, I got to sleep in or sit in a hammock, journaling or reading, or doing nothing.

One section of the beautiful gardens

I'd never seen grapefruit this size!

Ariel's daughter, Maia, suns herself in the courtyard

In the afternoons we'd walk around the city.


Santo Domingo

Interior of Santo Domingo

This church (above) is an amazing example of Mexican Baroque design. Dot isn't crazy about churches, but Maria and I were determined to see this one, both of us being enamored of Catholic iconography. Several of us managed a quick visit to this compelling site.

Max eyes the musicians

I now have to confess that on the flight over, I fell in
love. The object of my affection is 16 month old Maximilian, son of Ariel and Maria. He in turn, fell in love with musicians at the zocalo, or main plaza where todo el mundo hang out.

Max and the musicians

Lots of excitement went on the whole time we were in Oaxaca. First, there was the celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was in full swing when we arrived. Later there was the special day for The Virgin of Soledad (loneliness) who is the incarnation of Mary for Oaxaca. We heard fireworks and music late into the night. The zocalo was decorated for Christmas and was full of locals and tourists just enjoying being alive.

The zocalo at night

Even though I was the only one of our group not attending the writing workshop, the others were very friendly to me. I got to hang out with such strong, interesting, and lively young women. Shell had her two girls with her, one who is 15 and one who is four. They were delightful also.

One day we took a trip to Monte Alban, outside of Oaxaca city. This is the site of a Zapotec settlement, many thousands of years old. We were lucky that our trip was arranged so that we could be there early when it was not too hot yet, and when hardly anyone was there aside from our group. The view and the ruins are magical.

Part of Monte Alban

Here I am at Monte Alban, holding my journal and wearing the rebozo my grandmother bought in Mexico in 1953.

Gabby (from The Bronx, NYC) and Colleen (from Portland)

Closeup of ancient carving

The writing group meets at Monte Alban. Dot presents her writing.

Ariel inspires the group with a new assignment

Another view of Monte Alban

A favorite of all of us was the mercado near the zocalo. It's kind of a one stop shopping center, but far more exciting to us gringas than Freddy's is.

A typical food shop at the Market

Working in my journal was challenging. I had only a cheap kid's paint set and crayons to work on, in addition to any collage materials I could come by. No art supply stores in Oaxaca City! Still, limits can yield inspiration, so I plunged ahead.

Pages done at Monte Alban

Documentation of my new purse, made of leather and handspun, dyed, and woven wool

On the right I copied a small painting that is on a wall at the Casa Colonial, showing Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Soledad, and Frida Kaho.

Collage pages in my journal. These are made from newspapers and advertisements I picked up on the trip. In the middle right is a postcard of La Virgen de Soledad.

Ariel's mother, Eve de Bona, lives in Oaxaca. She arranged a trip for us to a village outside the city where the Navarro family live and work. This talented family produces backstrap weavings, and other fine crafts. Painter Gerardo Navarro's work is strong and affecting.

Dona Sirena by Gerardo Navarro

Mi Lupita by Gerardo Navarro

Eve arranged another wonderful outing for us.
We went to her house for comida, the main meal of the Mexican day, usually held at 2 PM. Her friend, Sol, prepared the meal which was one of the most delicious I've ever had. I could live forever on the soup that comprised our first course! Eve created an elegant table for this wonderful meal. Eve's home is beautiful and filled with light and art. I felt that I could have stayed there forever!

Kait, Angela, and Gabby in background, with Maria and Max in forground

Eve is a very talented painter. It was a thrill to see her work and her studio!

Eve's anatomy advisor reposes in the studio

Eve, right with Noel, a workshop participant who lives in Oaxaca

One of Eve's sketches

A work in progress, depicting Eve's late husband, John

Eve's rooftop view

Oaxaca is a great place to find visual gems. I took a lot of pictures and could have taken many more. This festive place has done a lot to renew my inspiration.

I took this photo by accident, but I love it!

Oaxaca even offers Chinese food

Just a typical street view!

Krytsee, from Portland, at the zocalo. She's wearing one of the rebozos we bought there.

Another inspiration seen on the street

Some large puppets seen in the street. They were at least eight feet tall.

I went to an antique shop where there were many wonderful things. Most were very expensive but I did score this book for collage. It is an old copy of a diary by writer Amado Nervi. As it is coverless and falling apart, I won't feel bad about using the pages for art work.

My antique store find.

It was very hard to leave Oaxaca, especially as we'd missed a couple of days while stranded in Houston. Still, it was a wonderful vacation for me and filled me with new inspiration and energy. One of the ongoing struggles for artists is to stay inspired and fill ourselves with new experiences. I knew I'd gotten "overdrawn" on my inspiration account and this trip did all that I had hoped to fill up that account and give me time to relax.

Yesterday my friend and former student, Mary Stilwell, came by for a visit. She now lives in Nebraska and is here for vacation and to see family. We agreed to "nag" and support each other in finding and making time for our art and to slow down!

I've done another thing I said I'd never do. I got a small fake tree. But it's a fiber optic tree and its small blinking lights look great with the tin ornaments I got in Mexico.

My gloriously fake tree

Close up of bird on top of tree

Thanks to Dot for taking me with you, to Ariel and Maria for new friendships, to the workshop participants for your sharing the fun with me, to the staff at the Casa Colonial for a perfect stay, and to Eve for your hospitality and inspiration!


gl. said...

beautiful, beautiful!

Colleen said...

A beautiful documentation of this trip! Thank you for posting this! xo

Deirdra Doan said...

Love your Blog and wonderful art...!! Thanks for the Merry Christmas and thank you for my video.

I am imagining you and much fun in the warm you are having.

Just took a quick peek want to come back again later.

What class are you teaching?

Snowflake and taco Christmas Blessings!

Deirdra Doan said...

PS were you at the vendor night at Art & Soul with a booth this year or last? I may remember you...if it was you because I love history too and someone, I think it was you painted some historic women....

Robin Olsen said...

I loved seeing your pictures of Oaxaca. I was there for Day of the Dead this year, and it's fun to see it at a slightly different time. Beautiful!

Elena said...

Thank you, Serena, for sharing your Oaxaca and La Casa/Ariel's Workshop-inspired art.

It recreated and further enriched much of what I felt about my week there too!

Serena Barton said...

Great to hear from you Colleen and Elena! I miss you all!

Dierdra, Thanks! You can see a list of classes I teach on my and on Yes, I was at the last Vendor Night at Art and Soul, along with my daughter, Jane Kearney.
I look forward to seeing you at A and S!

Thanks for your comments, Gretchin and Robin. I'd love to be in Oaxaca for Day of the Dead!